Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Recession and Housewivery? Um, no.

It's no secret that the recession continues to take its toll on working Americans, with unemployment numbers climbing by the thousands every day. The media have been wild with stories about long lines of people seeking work at career fairs, applicants numbering in the thousands for single janitorial jobs, and major impending layoffs at some of the nation's largest corporations. However, this AP article on layoffs affecting working moms rubbed - no, chaffed - me in absolutely the wrong way. The article carries a subtle stench of discrimination towards working women - and a not so subtle matrix of gender bias which reinforces age old expectations for mother/father family roles:

Lucas and other laid-off women like her are involuntarily experiencing the life of a stay-at-home mom, and they are getting to know a lot more about the details of their children's daily existence. They are also discovering some of the things they have been missing.

Though the mass layoffs of this recession have so far affected mostly men, more than 800,000 women have lost their jobs since the end of 2007. For the mothers among them, it means that, suddenly, Mommy's home, often for the first time in many years.

For many of these women, unemployment has no doubt been terrifying. But for some — particularly those who have the financial resources to ride out the storm — it has been a precious opportunity to get to know their children a little better.

Ummm - excuse me? If the "mass layoffs of this recession have so far affected mostly men," then why don't you do a feature about laid-off fathers who are "discovering some of the things they have been missing"? I can't help but take offence at the tone of this piece and the way it frames once-working moms as "discovering things they've been missing" during a "precious opportunity to get to know their children," without ANY mention of laid-off fathers getting the same so-called "opportunities." So, are we to think that laid-off fathers wouldn't relish at the "opportunity" to get to know their kids better? I'm similarly disgusted with how the writer described newly-jobless mothers' day-to-day routines: "art projects and cooking, baking and yoga class together [with the kids]... taking them to a pizza lunch, listening to all the school gossip and spoiling them with a trip to buy candy." This positively reeks of 1950-era sexism and the once-glorified, stereotypical housewife of that time. To be fair, the article mentions the "anxiety" and "confusion" lay offs are producing for mothers in the unemployment line. But ultimately its message is one that seems to glorify the "opportunity" produced by this recession for mothers to "reconnect" with their kids, and the message speaks only to mothers. Recently laid-off fathers? Of course they're not "reconnecting" with the kids - they've got to worry about finding another job.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Partisanship Smartisanship

Wouldn't this be nice!?
In the face of an economy in crisis and a deeply unpopular president, some analysts believe the situation is ripe to give Democrats a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in November... The last time either party had this ability was in the 95th Congress of 1977-1979, when Democrats held 61 seats during President Jimmy Carter's administration... "The fundamentals of this election year could not be more Democratic...You've got a terrible economy, a deeply unpopular president and an unpopular war. You put those elements together and it's going to produce a Democratic victory. ... The only question is, what size?"
What a wonderful prospect!

Let me take a moment to make a radical statement that any self-respecting person with a poli-sci background or even a lukewarm interest in politics would be crazy not to refute (but which I feel down to the core of my "soul" anyway):
I do not believe in bi-partisanship.

Sure, it's a warm-fuzzy ideal that conjures up images of sweaty, cooperatin' hands joined together in lusty commitment to the public good - and as someone who ultimately wants "the greatest good for the greatest number," I feel that dream... really I do.

The problem is that I don't believe bi-partisanship works for those issues I hold nearest and dearest to my heart, such as abortion/reproductive freedom in general, secularism, equal-pay for equal work, discrimination in all its nasty forms, climate change, equal access to education and health care... you get the point. Namely, I'm talking about those societal problems which require truly progressive, liberal policies to achieve what I (and NOW, the ACLU, Green Peace, insert liberal organization name here) believe is the greatest good.

In fact, I think this attitude can be captured by a short and sweet bumper-sticker phrase I'm going to coin - I don't brake for bigots! - in the sense that bigoted (re: conservative) positions on social issues should not be accommodated as part of some "give and take"/compromise/bullshit method of fashioning critical policy.

That is all.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nobel Laureates Choose Obama

I'm so glad I checked out Daily Kos today and saw this open letter from 61 Nobel Laureates endorsing Barack Obama for president.

This year's presidential election is among the most significant in our nation's history. The country urgently needs a visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness.

We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader, and we urge you to join us in supporting him.

During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country's scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government's scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

We have watched Senator Obama's approach to these issues with admiration. We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation's competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation's and the world's most urgent needs.

Senator Obama understands that Presidential leadership and federal investments in science and technology are crucial elements in successful governance of the world's leading country. We hope you will join us as we work together to ensure his election in November.

And yes, I too am fascinated at how I've been able to come full circle during this election season... From outspoken anti-Obamite to full-fledged supporter of his campaign. It's truly amazing what hatred for the GOP can inspire.

SNL Fun with the VP Debate

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Super-Atheist Sam Harris Attacks Palin

Stumbling upon Sam Harris' extraordinary op-ed on Sarah Plain ("When Atheists Attack") in the current edition of Newsweek has revived my resolve to finish reading his Letter to a Christian Nation (which I started last year but shelved indefinitely for lack of time during student-hood).

In his absolutely scathing critique of her qualifications (or lack thereof) for the "
second most important job in the world," Harris comes down hard on Palin's fundamentalist Christian ideology and highlights the ramifications her beliefs may have on American policy. Although I strongly recommend you read the entire article for yourself, here are some prime excerpts:
"I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn't be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn't ready for? He wouldn't. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House."

"Every detail that has emerged about Palin's life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the "end times." Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves."

"Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?"
This one includes yet another reference to that point I've been harping on and on about (hypocritical treatment of Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin):
"It is easy to see what many people, women especially, admire about Sarah Palin. Here is a mother of five who can see the bright side of having a child with Down syndrome and still find the time and energy to govern the state of Alaska. But we cannot ignore the fact that Palin's impressive family further testifies to her dogmatic religious beliefs. Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity. And just imagine if, instead of the Palins, the Obama family had a pregnant, underage daughter on display at their convention, flanked by her black boyfriend who "intends" to marry her. Who among conservatives would have resisted the temptation to speak of "the dysfunction in the black community."
And of course, my personal favorite:
"What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"
"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."
"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."
"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical
decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wiping off the Lip-sctick

Tell 'em, NOW!
Dear Kelly,
"Sarah Palin represents a new feminism. . ."
conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, quoted in the Los Angeles Times

It has been a long time since we've heard the word "feminist" spoken in public so many times a day. Like me, I'm sure you find it a bit ironic.

According to The Washington Post, Republicans think "Palin's burst onto the national scene could be a chance to redefine the nature of feminism in politics," and prominent media suggest her as "a feminist dream" or even the new "face of feminism."

That's where we come in. NOW is working hard to make sure that, despite some media pundits' apparent confusion, every woman in the country understands what is really at stake on November 4. For us, the spotlight on feminism in the 2008 elections should be about real change -- change that will help secure and advance true equality for women -- not just lip service or lipstick. We're putting all possible resources into educating voters and turning out the feminist vote on Election Day.

With less than forty days left before Nov. 4, time is short. Voter registration in most states will close in just a few days. And we need your help to mobilize and get the word out. Our activists are going the extra mile, but our resources are stretched thin as we work against the clock.

I won't go through the laundry list, but you know that from equal pay to abortion and birth control, we have a lot to lose in November. We need you to help us alter the course this country has been on for the past eight years as we work for the change WOMEN need on election day and beyond.

NOW will be working hard to get out the vote and highlight critical women's issues, including dangerous state ballot measures. And the NOW Political Action Committee has endorsed the Obama/Biden ticket, as well as solid women's rights candidates in critical congressional races across the country.

Please consider what you can do to help in our final push. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kim A. Gandy
NOW President

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lynn Spears > Sarah Palin

I'm glad to see that Lynne Spears noticed the double-standard in the way the media (and conservative consumers of media, in general) responded to teenage daughter Jamie Lynn's pregnancy earlier this year, as compared to the public response to the Palin family's teen pregnancy scandal.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the Spears family was
crucified for Jamie Lynn's pregnancy (and grandmama Lynn Spears was ubiquitously ruled a "bad mother") while the Palins were sanctified for "choosing life" and displaying strength during the typical "ups and downs" of your Average American Family.... puh-lease! Good for you, Lynn Spears, for speaking out about this in Newsweek:

You and Jamie Lynn got some negative press when she got pregnant so young. But more recently, 17-year-old Bristol Palin, and her mother, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, found themselves in a similar situation. And the publ ic reaction has been different.

It's a totally different reaction. It's as if [Sarah Palin] became celebrated. I mean, the mother, Palin, was celebrated for this. Every woman in the world has applauded her strength and her convictions and poor little old Jamie Lynn—you saw how she was crucified. Everybody did, firsthand ... I just feel like it's been a very hypocritical situation.
If the baby-mama-drama plaguing the Palins were to curse a democrat in a similar position, the Republicans would be screaming about the liberal degeneration of family values. When it's one of their own, the GOP is all about the "strength and resolve of a loving family in turmoil." Bull. Shit.